Take a look at this silk fabric that has been dyed into deeply contrasting colors on its two opposing sides.
This is the work of Saratetsu, the last remaining hand-dyer of wrapping cloth (or furoshiki) in the central 23 wards of Tokyo. Owned and operated by Hagiwara Ichizo, Saratetsu has been dyeing yuzen-style for three generations since 1910. Ai was given a tour of their studio in early May.
Yuzen is a method of dyeing fabric by using sticky rice husk resist. Hagiwara-san says that by only using this traditional dye resist is it possible for a thin fabric such as silk to be dyed into a different color on each side. While many dyers in Japan have switched to machines and other more economical methods, Saratetsu has continued to carry on the yuzen tradition by dyeing everything by hand.
Yuzen dyeing is extremely labor intensive, involving detailed accuracy and care at each step of the process.
In the following photographs, yuzen-dyer Harima Jun of Saratetsu demonstrated the dyeing process for KotoKoto:
Saratetsu specializes in free hand and stencil yuzen-dyeing, and their attic is full of hand carved paper stencils that were previously used. The patterns of old stencils are beautiful and continue to appeal to our modern eyes. KotoKoto is discussiing with Saratetsu to revive one of these old paper stencils onto fine linen.
Can we do it?